Published on: June 13, 2011by Kevin Coupe
Almost exactly three years ago, Time magazine reported on - and MNB took note of - hotel companies that are creating a new kind of experience for road warriors under the age of 35 - the point being that traditional business models have to constantly go through the act of reinvention if they are to remain relevant, especially to the next generation of consumers.
Among the companies mentioned in the piece was Aloft, from Starwood Hotels, which MNB subsequently reported on. An excerpt, from the 4-9-09 OffBeat:
“Even though I am not exactly the hip and urban traveler that the chain is seeking ... I am here to report that these guys are onto something and that retailers should pay attention to the ways in which Starwood is rethinking the hotel business for the next generation of consumers. The Minneapolis Aloft has a futuristic look to it, all glass and metal. Walk into the lobby, and you actually find a kind of ‘great room’ – the front desk is circular and near the middle of the room, and there is a large bar, a pool table, plenty of flat screen televisions, a news feed running across the top of the wall, and lots of conversation pits where people were engaged in animated and sometimes intimate conversation. It has a kind of neighborhood vibe to it, with real personality and energy, and not at all antiseptic.
“The rooms have a neat kind of minimalist décor, dominated by a very comfortable bed and a 42-inch flat screen television (which I’d rather look at than the crappy art you generally find on hotel room walls). The emphasis is on comfort and function rather than form, and it works.”
The Wall Street Journal the other day advances the story with another piece about the trend, noting that hotel chains are now focusing on the food and beverage experience as way of differentiating themselves. Perhaps the most important observation in the piece comes from Hyatt’s Gary Dollens, who says that the chain had to completely change the way it approached foodservice availability. "Nobody is on a schedule like they were on in the past. You're working at night and you eat when you want to eat and drink when you want to drink," he says.
And so, “The company designed its Hyatt Place lobbies with a central counter where guests could order coffee, drinks or food. The same employees who check guests in can serve them a latte or cook them a burger, which also saves the chain money.”
The story goes on: “Hilton Worldwide Inc.'s Hilton Garden Inn chain's new remodeling plan includes what employees call a ‘Starbuckian area’ with communal seating for the laptop set. InterContinental Hotels Group's Holiday Inn chain is piloting a new lobby concept dubbed the ‘social hub’ in an Atlanta-area hotel this month that will have banquettes with built-in televisions, high tables where solo travelers can plug in laptops and an area where guests can buy food and coffee to go. Marriott International Inc.'s Courtyard by Marriott chain is refitting hundreds of lobbies with touch screens so customers can check weather and flight information and bar stools to make them look more high-tech and sophisticated.”
The larger point is this: No mater what business you are in, there is a cold reality with which you have to grapple. Irrelevance and obsolescence are inevitable…unless you constantly are engaged in the act of reinvention, innovation, and renewal that embraces the fact that the world is changing, that customers are evolving, and that nothing stays the same.
That’s an Eye-Opener.
- KC's View: